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Interview With Maria Kosygina of Vremya Newspaper

Richard A. Boucher, Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asian Affairs
Astana, Kazakhstan
February 27, 2007

QUESTION: Mr. Ordway has stated Kazakhstan has a chance of heading the OSCE. One of the requirements is to carry out the democratic reforms that have been planned. Can you please tell whether there are any visible results already, that those reforms are being carried out?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BOUCHER: First of all let me say I agree with our Ambassador. That's not news, of course.

I think the way I would put it is the OSCE stands for three things -- they stand for cooperation on security, cooperation on economic reform, and cooperation on building democracy. We've seen Kazakhstan take a lot of steps on cooperative security. We've seen Kazakhstan take a lot of steps on economic reform. And we've seen Kazakhstan even take some steps on political reform. So the question for us is how much is Kazakhstan doing in these areas, and is Kazakhstan an example to other nations, a leader among other nations in all these areas.

We would like to see Kazakhstan be such a leader. We would like to see Kazakhstan be the leader of the OSCE in all of these areas. There is a parliament here, there are elections here, there are private media here. There's tolerance of ethnic groups and religious groups. But I don't think we can say at this point that Kazakhstan is a leader in these areas.

We don't expect everything to happen overnight, but we want to understand the program of moving forward. We want to understand how political institutions will be built. So we've seen some steps in these areas, but I think we're interested in seeing the process unfold and the pattern unfold.

We'll look forward to the President's speech tomorrow. We'll look forward to the steps that will be taken to carry out these reforms. And then we'll see if we can support Kazakhstan's bid or not.

QUESTION: You say how in Europe, what European situation is in Kazakhstan respecting human rights?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BOUCHER: We'll have a more complete human rights report available very shortly. The report gets released every year right at this time.

I think, simply put, we've seen a lot of progress in Kazakhstan, if you go back the last 10-15 years, but as in every country there's still a lot of things to do. When I say every country, I include the United States. We're constantly striving to reform and improve our democracy. We hope that others who have the same values, have the same aspirations, will work as well. There are some big issues in front of Kazakhstan as it develops: how to ensure the independence of the media; how to ensure the independence of the judiciary; how to fight corruption; how to build an election system that gives the voters a fair and free choice. So these are very interesting questions to us. We understand that each country will find its own way.

We're very interested in seeing Kazakhstan move forward on these things and in understanding how Kazakhstan will move forward into a modern future in these areas.

QUESTION: Specifically what kind of mistakes, what kind of deficiency does Kazakhstan need to correct? What kind of work needs to be done in order for Kazakhstan to have a chance to be recognized as a full-fledged head of OSCE?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BOUCHER: It's a question - it's not what we say Kazakhstan has to do. The leaders of Kazakhstan have said they're going to move forward, they want to move forward in these areas. Move forward on elections, move forward on media, move forward on justice, to move forward generally on the issues of human rights. Each country has to find its own way. But there are standards, values, practices that many people follow, many people can learn from. So I guess I'd say we're asking questions. How will Kazakhstan move forward? When will Kazakhstan move forward? What should we expect to see?

QUESTION: I'm sorry, I didn't ask the question correctly. Let me ask it a different way. What standards does our country not meet for now? Does not yet meet?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BOUCHER: Again, there have been OSCE reports on elections; there have been issues raised as far as the independence of the media, issues raised with regards to the independence of the judiciary. These are not just things that have been raised by foreigners. These are issues that get raised by people in Kazakhstan. Indeed, these are the issues and the areas where the government itself says it wants to move forward.

QUESTION: The opposition in Kazakhstan expressed an opinion that Kazakhstan, one way or another, will not be able to in the end chair the OSCE. They push the country towards a union with China and Russia. I would like to find out your opinion on this subject, and more specifically about the possibility of threatening to leave the OSCE and to create unions amongst themselves.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BOUCHER: I think first, we're not here to push Kazakhstan one way or the other. We understand that it's strategically important for Kazakhstan to have good relations with Russia, with China, with the United States, with Europe, with Turkey, with countries to the south. So I don't think we're trying to push Kazakhstan around. We're trying to support the independence of Kazakhstan and ensure that Kazakhstan has the choices that can most benefit its people.

The OSCE has been a very important organization in the development of Europe. It's played a very important role in the development of human rights, the economy, social security for countries and we wanted to make sure it has the leadership to continue to play that role. So when we look at the question of chairmanship, it's not so much a question of bad effects that one country or another doesn't get the chairmanship. For us it's a question of whether the country can provide - the chairman can provide the leadership and the example to move forward in all these areas.

I don't think there's any question but that Kazakhstan can provide leadership and be an example in some of these areas, but the chairman needs to be able to lead in all the areas.

But again, we're not asking for perfection. None of us are perfect. No one should say my way is better than your way. What we're saying is my country is committed to progress and we're taking steps to achieve that progress. As chairman, we can work with others to achieve progress. So that will be the question. We'll look at that question when we get to Madrid.

QUESTION: The results of the democratization commission, the pro-presidential parties have highlighted the results of the work of that commission and the opposition parties, the parties opposing the president, their remarks were negative. One would like to learn about your views on this.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BOUCHER: I don't think that should surprise anyone. I've talked with some members of the opposition parties. I talked to them during my visit this time and I've talked to them before. Indeed it's interesting that to some extent both the government and the opposition are focused on the same key areas. Indeed they are looking at the powers of the president and parliament, the role of political parties in the election process, the independence of the judiciary, and other questions. So to some extent they're focused on the same things, but obviously they come up with different answers.

These are big questions for any society to work out. I suppose I would say the best answers to these questions are when people with all points of view are able to work together, especially where there's a healthy debate that brings forward all different aspects, all different views. Ultimately the people of the country have to have a chance to decide for themselves, either by --

QUESTION: I'm sorry, the question is a different thing. In your opinion did the commission achieve the goals it was established for?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BOUCHER: I guess I don't really have an opinion on that. I didn't establish the commission, nor am I evaluating its results. What I'm saying is, as these big questions get addressed there needs to be a process for all points of view to be heard and ultimately for the people to decide, either directly or through freely elected representatives.

QUESTION: I understand. Another question. Last year a well known opposition politician was murdered. Still many questions remain in that case, in that investigation. There is an opinion that this murder was one of the key things that influenced the consideration of Kazakhstan's candidacy for the OSCE chairmanship. I'd like to find out if it is indeed the case or not.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BOUCHER: This was not directly one of the issues we considered when we considered the OSCE question. I think we've really been looking more generally at this question of leadership and example of Kazakhstan for other nations.

The case in question is one that we follow very closely. We've always said it needs to be followed wherever it leads. I think that's something we'd still like to see.

QUESTION: A more global question. After the famous speech by Vladimir Putin there are opinions that his speech can be quite the beginning of a new Cold War. In your opinion is it possible?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BOUCHER: Not from our side. We've said very clearly, Secretary Gates said very clearly in Munich, he said one Cold War was enough. All of us of a certain age, we grew up during that period. Now it is much better. Millions of people have freedom and opportunity and we have a chance to cooperate in building the things that we all want in this world. We continue to work with Russia very well in many areas. We're their main economic partners, we're together on big issues like Iran's nuclear program or North Korea. We support the same goals everywhere around the world.

The last couple of weeks I've had discussions with my Russian counterpart about Central Asia. I think we have very similar views about the need for respect for the sovereignty and independence of the countries of this region.

So I think in many ways our dialogue certainly with the Foreign Ministry has been very good. We'll continue to work with Russia in every way we can. Russia's an important country that plays an important role in making the world better for the people who live in it. Tensions between Russia and the rest of the world don't help anybody - in Russia or anywhere else.

QUESTION: Last question. This one is related to the mutual relationship with another one of your partners, Uzbekistan and the well known events in Andijon. What kind of relationship do you have now with that country?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BOUCHER: I'd say we have a difficult relationship with Uzbekistan. In fact we find many countries, including countries in the region, have difficult relations with Uzbekistan. We have tried to work with Uzbekistan on areas of importance to us and to Uzbekistan. We've been able to make a bit of progress in some areas. But we've seen continued negative actions by Uzbekistan against U.S. companies, against [inaudible], against non-governmental organizations, so that has made cooperation difficult.

But we'll continue to try. I went there last fall. My deputy is in Uzbekistan this week. So we continue to be open to cooperation with Uzbekistan in a whole broad range of areas. We'll look for ways to move forward where we can.

Thank you very much.

QUESTION: Thank you.



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